Transfield's greatest contractual success was the largest ever private contract in Australia's history up to the turn of the century: the winning of the five billion dollar tender in 1989 for the construction of eight frigates for the Royal Australian Navy and two for the Royal New Zealand Navy.  



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2002. Guided missile launch system. Upgrade by ADI on the FFG-7 class frigates.

Chapter One

The economic downturn of the 1980s forced Transfield to look for markets alternative to the company's traditional involvement in infrastructure construction.

An opportunity arose in 1987 to enter the defence industry, when the Australian Government decided to let a major contract for up to 10 new frigates. At the same time the Government decided to sell the Williamstown Dockyards in Melbourne to private enterprise, in order to provide competition to the Newcastle shipyard.

Video: Frigate Animation.

Chapter Two

In December 1987, the Commonwealth sold the shipyard to the winning consortium, Australian Marine Engineering Consolidated (AMECON), which consisted of partners Eglo Engineering (Services) Ltd, Australian Shipping Industries Ltd (ASI) and International Combustion of Australia Ltd (ICAL) for $100 million and to finish two older style Perry class frigates, already partly under construction.

Transfield then decided to make takeover bids on the ASX for all three partners in AMECON. Transfield at that point controlled only about 20 per cent of Eglo's shares. After a long-running and bitterly contested battle, by August 1988 Transfield was successful in controlling AMECON. The only competition now for the ANZAC frigate project was the Newcastle consortium.


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The FFG-7 Class frigate HMAS Newcastle during sea trials. Williamstown Dockyard, Melbourne. Bow of a FFG-7 Class frigate. Williamstown Dockyard, Melbourne. Bow of a frigate being lifted.

Chapter Three

As well as giving Transfield ownership of AMECON, Williamstown Dockyards, the contract to finish the two FFG-7 frigates and the three new entities Eglo, ASI and ICAL, the latter company extended Transfield's capacity significantly into the power generation market.

In order to achieve flexibility, innovation and maximum efficiency Transfield, in a highly controversial move, restructured work practices at the Dockyards. The number of Unions was reduced from 23 to three, 1,200 former Commonwealth workers were shifted elsewhere in the Public Service or made redundant, and a largely new workforce of 330, including subcontractors, administration and management staff, was hired. Due to these measures, by 1995 productivity rose by 700 per cent.

Video: Transfield's Involvement in Defence.

Chapter Four

On 10 November 1989 Transfield, having beaten its rival consortium, Australian Warship Systems (AWS) in Newcastle, received from the Commonwealth the order for the ten ANZAC frigates. The project, its cost now revised at $5.8 billion, employed 10,300 people in Australia and another 1,300 in New Zealand.

Transfield completed on time and in budget the first frigate for the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS ANZAC, launched on 16 September 1994, and the first frigate for the Royal New Zealand Navy, HMNZS Te Kaha, launched in Melbourne on 22 July 1995, while the two FFG-7 frigates, HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle were commissioned in February 1992 in December 1993 respectively.


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1995. ANZAC Frigate. Training Manager Brian Archer introducing the Shipbuilding Technology Program. 1994. HMAS Anzac, the first of the ANZAC Class frigates, being launched at the Williamstown Dockyard, Melbourne. 1994. Flight of RAAFs acrobatic team over HMAS Anzac. 1994. Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, Prime Minister Paul Keating and Franco at the launch of HMAS Anzac. 1994. Launch of HMAS Anzac. Workers prepare for the launch. 16 September 1994. HMAS Anzac in the water.

Chapter Five

Following the parting of the ways by the two families in July 1996, the remaining eight frigates would be completed by Tenix, the company set up by the Salteris, who took over the defence contracts when Transfield's assets were equally distributed between them.


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Prime Minister Paul Keating, Carlo Salteri and Mrs Annita Keating at the launch of HMNZS Te Kaha. The stern of HMNZS Te Kaha. 1995. Williamstown Dockyard launch of HMNZS Te Kaha, the first of two frigates built for New Zealand.

Chapter Six

Beside the frigates, from 1989 until 1996, Transfield was involved in several other defence contracts. In 1990 it repaired and refitted the submarines HMAS Oxley and HMAS Swan, delivered to Tonga the first of three patrol boats and consigned to the Royal Australian Navy four hydrographic survey vessels. In 1993, it applied protective coatings to the midsection of six Collins Class submarines. By this year, Transfield had delivered or had on order thirty high-speed patrol boats for the Pacific Island States, Hong Kong and Kuwait. In 1995, Transfield proposed to the Australian Army a new turret for its armoured fighting vehicles, as well as folding, floating bridges and demountable bridges designed for rapid assembly, capable of supporting loads up to 70 tonnes.  


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1989. The signing of the ANZAC Frigates contract, under the watchful eye of Transfield’s founder.

Chapter Seven

Upon relinquishing to Tenix the balance of the ANZAC contract in 1996, Transfield pursued its defence interests elsewhere. In October 1999, in association with the Thales Group from France, Transfield purchased ADI, the Commonwealth Government defence contractor and Australia's only supplier of military ordnance.

In private ownership for the first time in its history ADI had in Thales, on the one hand, an international technology partner and in Transfield on the other, a proven local engineering contractor, with specific expertise in the defence industry.    


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2001. Testing of overhauled naval gun for ANZAC class frigates by ADI. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis at the periscope of one of the submarines refurbished by ADI. 1989. One of the floating bridges supplied to the Australian Defence Force.

Chapter Eight

ADI at the time was completing the contract for six Italian designed Minehunters- widely regarded as the most sophisticated vessels of their type.

ADI thus represented itself as a leading private defence player, winning a number of complex major projects, including the design and installation of command headquarters on HMAS Manoora and, in 2002 the upgrade of command, control and guided missile launch systems on the Perry Class frigates worth over $1bn.


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2002. Guided missile launch system. Upgrade by ADI on the FFG-7 class frigates.